The US Virgin Islands Is Open for Tourism — Here’s What to Expect

st croix caribbean momentHeading to West Beach from Sandy Point in St Croix.
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St Croix might be your best bet if you’re thinking about heading to the U.S. Virgin Islands, after the U.S. territory officially reopened to visitors on June 1.

Of the three islands in the USVI — St Thomas, St Croix, and St John — St. Croix has the most hotels currently open, including such prominent properties as the Hotel Caravelle, The Buccaneer, Sand Castle on the Beach, and The Fred, among others.

In fact, St Croix is the rare Caribbean destination with more hotels open than closed.

“Like most Americans, we are cautiously optimistic about re-opening the territory to tourism,” says Topher Swanson, co-owner of The Fred, an 11-room boutique hotel in Frederiksted. “Although not scientifically proven to prevent COVID-19, many of the things that people come to the Caribbean to enjoy — wide open spaces, fresh sea air, plenty of UV sunlight, etc. — are things that many people naturally believe can be used to fight the spread of COVID-19, so I can’t think of a healthier place to be right now.”

(It’s worth noting that St. John has had just two positive COVID-19 cases though May 19, versus 38 in St. Thomas and 29 in St. Croix.)

Quesadillas on the beach at The Fred.

USVI Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte announced that although tourists will be allowed to start coming back to the USVI next week, the territory’s COVID-19 state of emergency will remain in place until at least July 17.

Visitors who come to the USVI in June will thus be among the first to experience the “new normal” of tourism in the post-COVID world.

Buffets and live music will be banned at restaurants and bars, for example. Children’s recreational areas will remain closed. Mini-bars in hotel rooms will be shut down. Employees and guests will be required to wear masks in public areas.

Hotels will be required to retain guest information for contact tracing if an outbreak of illness occurs. And any guests who show symptoms of COVID-19 will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“Our goal to ensure our visitors have a wonderful and safe experience when they visit the USVI,” said Lisa Hamilton, president of the USVI Hotel & Tourism Association. “We have extensive safety protocols to ensure this. Visitors can enjoy restaurants, bars, beaches, boat rentals, activities, and attractions. We are temperature checking via thermal imaging on arrival and this will be communicated to [visitors].”

us virgin islands open
Protestant Cay in St Croix.

“Likewise, we are testing employees as they come in to work each day and ensuring proper sanitation procedures are followed while on the job,” said The Fred’s Swanson. “We typically allow more than a day between guests in each room at the hotel so that they have a chance to heat up with the A/Cs off before new guests arrive.”

The Emerald Beach Resort in St Thomas.

“In general we have stepped up extra cleaning and let me just say … we’re no longer trying to be subtle nor quick with our cleaning efforts,” he said. “If needed, we are prepared to begin screening guests with touchless thermometers and wiping down suitcases with sanitization cloths, but so far that has not been included in the recommendations that we have received.”

Under the guidelines that will be in place when visitors begin returning, masks will be required in order to receive service at restaurants, bars, hotels, and other businesses.

Social distancing mandates will include six-foot seating separation at dining establishments as well as poolside.

st croix caribbean tiki bar
The Breakers Roar tiki bar in St Croix is back open.

“All furnishings have been moved at least 6 feet apart to provide for the greatest amount of social distancing, and we have sectioned off the pool from our restaurant and bar in order to be sure that we can easily maintain the recommended 50 people maximum per area,” said Swanson. “Fortunately, guest volume is typically lower in the summer months so that allows even more opportunity to really spread things out.”

Whether or not to reopen on June 1 is a decision left to individual hotels and restaurants. A number have chosen to remain more cautious. The Bolongo Bay Beach Resort says it won’t open its door to non-emergency personnel until July 1, for example, “which is closer to the date I envisioned from the start,” according to owner Richard Doumeng.

Other hotels that will reopen later include the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas (July 15) and the Margaritaville vacation club (July 1).

USVI hotels and condos that are already open include:

Emerald Beach, STT

The Green Iguana, STT

Windward Passage, STT

Secret Harbor, STT

Bluebeard’s Castle, STT

Flamboyan on the Bay, STT

The Hills, STJ

Arawak, STX

Holger Dansk, STX

Hotel Caravelle, STX

Sand Castle on the Beach, STX

Tamarand Beach, STX

The Palms, STX

The Fred, STX

Club Comanche, STX

Cottages by the Sea, STX

The Buccaneer, STX

The Inn on Strand Street, STX

Hotels planning to open on June 1 include:

Point Pleasant Resort, STT

Frenchman’s Cove timeshares, STT

Ritz-Carlton Club timeshares, STT

The Westin St. John, STJ

Gallows Point, STJ

Coconut Coast Villas, STJ

The Carambola Beach Resort on St. Croix and the Elysian Beach Resort on St. Thomas will reopen in November.

For more, visit USVI Tourism.

— CJ